Design Thinking Academy accepting student applications for 2018-19 academic year

Photo of Design Thinking Academy fellows.
Image Credit: courtesy of John Berry

The Design Thinking Academy is striving to help Grand Valley students blossom into innovative thinkers and problems solvers who are able to make lasting impacts in their societies by utilizing the design thinking process.

The application window for the 2018-19 Design Thinking Academy is now open to Grand Valley students, regardless of their majors. Students interested in applying can do so by visiting The deadline for applications is April 1; Twenty students will be accepted into the program.

The Design Thinking Academy will expand to encompass an entire academic year beginning in the fall.

John Berry, director of both the Design Thinking Academy and Grand Valley's Design Thinking Initiative, said the fall 2018 semester will be dedicated to teaching students about the key elements of the design thinking process, such as improvisation, prototyping, collaborating and storytelling.

The winter 2019 semester will provide students with the opportunity to divide into small teams that will each work on a community-based problem presented by one of the more than 25 Academy community partners.

Erika Bowring, a senior majoring in accounting, and her team have been working with Steelcase this academic year to solve the company's question of how to better communicate across varying distances.

"We primarily focused on the empathy stage of the Design Thinking process and we found that one of the main issues is presence disparity, which is the lack of understanding that becomes lost when people communicate over email, video chat or conference calls," Bowring explained. 

Bowring said her Design Thinking Academy experience allowed her to explore and exercise different skills that she may not have otherwise learned through her normal class schedule.

"As an accounting student, I do not often need to learn about improvisation or prototyping, but the Design Thinking Academy has opened my eyes to the applicability of these skills in everyday life," said Bowring. "This is an opportunity to learn new skills that companies are seeking when hiring new recruits and design thinking is being incorporated into many businesses across Michigan."

In the past, Design Thinking Academy students have also worked with local companies and organizations, such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Gentex and United Way.

Students who complete the academy programming will earn a Design Thinking Academy certificate of completion, which Bowring said will help her stand out when applying for jobs after college.

"Being able to use your Design Thinking fellow status as a conversation starter makes you memorable to hiring companies because this is a skill that is unique to Grand Valley and people want to know more about it," said Bowring.

For more information about the Design Thinking Academy, contact Berry at